“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don’t really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren’t really an ending; some things are never-ending.” ― C. JoyBell C.
I don’t like goodbyes. Goodbye’s carry with them the association of permanence. But nothing is ever permanent – not even goodbye’s. I once thought that I would have to say goodbye to my horse, who was my best friend growing up, but even now, six years later, I still find her in my life, little bits that pop up every now and again. The world goes around in a circle for a reason – nothing is ever permanent, not even the stones are set in stone for the river reshapes them or the earth swallows them to add them to her crust.
They say that in the end, everything will turn to ash – our origin. Ash is the most fruitful fertiliser there is. See? I try to tell myself, the world goes in circles. There are no goodbyes. And the concept of ‘ending’ is probably mankind’s way of dealing with a missing, a longing, a yearning that follows because you know humans, we must always label things.
During the seven days we’ve spent in Axminster, we’ve driven around endlessly, following the at times steep, at times flat and snaking roads that lead to all sorts of treasure. We’ve walked miles and miles through woodlands, grass plains and beaches where the waves kept crashing into shore as if put on a perpetual loop (it’s a circle, the world moves in circles).
Some days we were enjoying the lazy, hazy days of wet and poor summer, strolling around Lyme Regis and spending half our pocket money on stuff for the dogs. One morning we visited Blackdown hills and wandered through the land with the dogs running around the tall grass, bushes and Mace dipping his feet in the small creek that accompanied us like a fellow traveller. We drive through towns like Axmouth and Seaton or stop at small fishermen’s villages like Beer, where we treat ourselves to tea and a view of the stretching sea. We made the long drive to Torquay to see the flea market and roam the town blissfully, until heading towards Torbay for more tea and more displays of stunning sceneries. We discover small places, like Berry Head, or West Bay to which we took the exotic bus drive, the red bus barely making it over the top of the hill. The day before we go see Exeter’s famous car boot sale, we spent the afternoon in front of the telly watching Australia beat the English rugby team. We found a comfortable balance between zigzagging our way through Devon and Dorset and some quiet hours at the cottage where we see Axminster in the distance and the sun dipping low until it paints the sky bright red and yellow.
The last big event we have is Durdle Door. Summer throws us her last effort to save us and the few hours we spent gazing down or up the tall cliffs, or trying to take in the mighty door that nature carved so brilliantly, the wind is tugging at our clothes but the only water that reaches us is the splatter of the waves that vehemently slam into the high sandbanks. It’s not until we’re back safely in the car, thawing our hands around a cup of tea, that the rain hails down again.
It’s already dark when we arrive in Hastings – a trip that fell upon us heavily as we misjudged the lengthy distance. Glad to have a small, relatively warm room where we find shelter from the rain that’s pouring down onto the empty streets of Hastings, we go to bed as soon as we’ve settled in. Hastings, though definitely having a charm, is for us an ‘in between town’. We picked it because of the relatively close proximity to Dover, making it an excellent town to stop by before the big trip back to France. But this, this makes the town almost desolate and barren. There is was a big secondhand bookshop where I could have spent hours, but there was a voice in the wind that pushed us on – to what we didn’t know. We just wanted to enjoy our last days as much as we could. We find solitude in the centre where the houses, streets and shops hold a far more prominent touch of the modern era, and treat ourselves to gluten free cake and tea – and more tea in Old Town where we wander on and on. The weather is horrible and it’s almost as if England is sorrowful too that we are to depart so soon again.
Our very last day and England throws us a curve ball when we accidentally stumble upon Rye – a small village I spotted on the map randomly and suggested it when looking for options on our way to Dover. Unsure of what we’d find, we steer away slightly from our final destination, and with the sun over our shoulders we are happily surprised to find Rye a typically English village. The smiles are hard to erase from our faces – this, this is England.
The following morning, I realise that saying ‘goodbye’ wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part of being back – here – where I am reminded of all the reasons I wanted to leave and eventually left. Here where I feel like I don’t belong, where they don’t speak my language, where they all behave so oddly, where everything is flat and boring, where I feel like I’m stuck. I feel as if I came back to the exact same spot I left. It makes sense as nothing is permanent, and I realise that our adventure was like a goodbye – nothing permanent.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been homesick. Coming back to the Netherlands and I was struck with a sense of homesickness that I never before experienced so deeply, so heavily, so intensively. This time, however, this time, it was different. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a place to go back to that would ease the burden of being eternally homesick. I felt like I had found a country where I could fit in, a country where I could, perhaps, maybe, find a place to build my own bird’s nest and fly from there.
But coming back made me long not to return, but to turn a goodbye into something more permanent – yes, to turn a goodbye into a goodbye. When I close my eyes, I’m there.
I guess that’s home.
And I can’t wait to go home and say goodbye like I mean it – with permanence.
By Tess Janssen